Whether or not it’s appropriate to tip hotel housekeeping can be a controversial topic.
On one side you have the people who don’t think it’s necessary. Generally their logic is that the hotel should be paying their housekeepers a fair wage, rather than trying to pass that cost on to the guests in such a direct way. Just as we don’t pay extra for towels, sheets, etc., we shouldn’t have to pay extra to have them cleaned. These are also people who generally hate the US tipping culture.
On the other side you have the people who do think it’s appropriate to tip housekeeping. These people generally view housekeepers the same as the’d view anyone else in the service industry. Just in the way you’d tip bellmen who help with bags or taxi drivers, you should also tip the person who cleans your room.
Personally I’m in the latter category, and frankly my opinion has changed over the years. I don’t judge others for not tipping housekeeping, but personally it’s something I try to do, because I think it’s the right thing to do. Do I like the US tipping culture? No, not really. Do I wish housekeepers were paid better wages so I wouldn’t feel compelled to tip? Absolutely. But I also know that these people work really hard and have a thankless job and deal with some disgusting things.
I believe in the “live and let live” ideology, so if I have cash on me, I always try to leave a few dollars per day for some of the hardest working people in a hotel. I’m fortunate that a few dollars won’t make a material difference in my financial situation, while I know it can go a long way for many of the people working in hotels. I also think that housekeepers get the short end of the straw of our tipping culture. Whether you like it or not, there’s an expectation that you tip a taxi driver just for doing their job without them providing any sort of extra “service” for you. So if they should get a tip for not going out of their way, those who work as hard as housekeepers should as well, in my opinion.
Over the years we’ve seen some initiatives from hotels to try and encourage people to tip, including from Marriott.
When Marriott first introduced envelopes I thought they were tacky, but then it also occurred to me that many people would tip housekeeping if they knew it was appreciated and/or were reminded of it. While some don’t tip on principle, I think others have the “out of sight, out of mind” approach, and don’t remember to do it, so it’s a good reminder. The envelopes also aren’t as direct as they used to be. When they were first introduced they said “feel free to leave a gratuity,” while now they say “it was my pleasure to host you.”
Anyway, the New York Times had an interesting article a few weeks ago entitled “Tipping May Be the Norm, but Not for Hotel Housekeepers.” It provides both sides of the hotel housekeeping tipping debate, and also provides some numbers. How much do hotel housekeepers make? As you’d expect, pay rates vary significantly based on the location:
Pay rates vary widely by region. Wage Watch, a company that tracks wage and salary information for the lodging and gambling industries, found that a housekeeper in a New York City hotel can expect to make an average of $29.41 an hour, while one in Charlotte, N.C., may earn an average of $10 an hour.
Nationally, housekeepers’ wages are comparable to desk clerks’, whose average hourly rate the Bureau of Labor Statistics tallies at $11.28. But desk clerk jobs don’t require the flipping of heavy mattresses or exposure to cleaning chemicals that can lead to respiratory and other health problems.
So, how often do people tip housekeepers? Apparently about 30% of the time, and that’s with a “nudge:”
Yet housekeepers say that, without the gentle nudge of initiatives like “The Envelope Please,” only about 30 percent of guests leave a tip — a figure Professor Blum found as well.
“Some days someone will leave $5; other days, they leave nothing,” Ms. Lemus said.
“Sometimes we get $2 or $3 in a room, and we get very happy,” Ms. Guerrero said. “It makes us feel like someone appreciated us.” But sometimes, several days pass without a tip.
Even though I’m all for tipping housekeeping, the major issue is that often I just don’t have the right change for tipping. I pay almost everything by credit card, and it’s rare that I have cash, let alone in the right denominations. So while I make an effort to have cash, sometimes I don’t, and then I feel guilty. One person quoted in the article makes a recommendation that I’d support wholeheartedly:
“Tipping etiquette experts have said for 20 years or more that you should tip hotel maids. But even I don’t do it all the time,” he said. “Half the time I don’t have the proper change in my pocket or I forget.”
“If hotels really wanted to institutionalize tipping, they could do it through electronic checkouts, or an app, or the TV, with a question like, ‘Would you like to leave a tip for your housekeeper?’” Professor Blum said. “We live in a tipping society. Even sandwich shops do that now. Why shouldn’t hotels do it?”
With hotels increasingly using technology for check-in and check-out, it seems like they could pretty easily implement a tipping functionality that would allow guests to add a tip by credit card. It doesn’t even have to be pushy. It could be similar to Starbucks or Uber, where the suggestion for a tip isn’t that forced or intrusive.
Where do you stand on tipping hotel housekeepers?